How to Photograph an OCD Dog Swimming in Your Pool

I recently made a visit to my hometown. I traveled to Vegas for a convention and got to spend the weekend with my family. My brother and his wife have been remodeling a house out on Sunrise Mountain – right now it’s a work in progress, but there is one part that is ready to go. Right off the patio there is an oasis in the desert – a practically perfect pool.

Growing up we were never “pool people”. On our block there were two families that had pools – one was at a white house with white carpet – they were a fancy-schmancy family with wrought iron and sparkly stucco. I was always too grubby to even pass through their door, let alone be invited to play in their pool. The other was a doughboy pool that the kids a couple of years older hung out at  – it was like swimming in a balloon, not my cup of tea.

The only pool I have ever owned was one of those kiddie pools you buy at Stuff-mart, I bought it for my dog. He loved it and I have always gotten a kick out of seeing a dog enjoy the water. I kayak with my terrier and my goldendoodle loves to play in the lake, so when I heard that we were taking my brother’s dog over to the new house to play in the pool, I was super excited to get a chance to capture her in action in the water.

A word about the dog – Cammie Lou (Cambria Louise) is an english pointer. She is an avid hunter and borders on being OCD when it comes to birds, or toys, or sitting in the passenger seat in the jeep. She cannot rest when these things are in play, she obsesses and pushes and works herself into a frenzy. It makes for a spectacular hunter. Apparently she also obsesses about swimming.

We let Cammie out into the backyard and she leapt into the pool and immediately began swimming laps non stop. She also made an excited crying sound. After about a dozen laps we would have to stand on the steps at the end and urge her to get out for a rest. She was so excited that she would jump right back in and start swimming again. This dog adores the water. Her joy is palpable. She was amazing to shoot.

To capture Cammie I started with a fairly high ISO – 2000. In the bright sunlight you could push it a lot higher if you needed to. I started with a shutter speed of 1/640 second and pushed up to 1/1000 after about 20 shots. In 10 minutes I shot about 150 frames and with these shutter speeds I only had about 4 that were out of focus or where I lost her in the frame. I focused on her eyes. Click through to get a sense of the motion of Cammie swimming.

Seeing Spots

There’s something about baby animals, they are almost irresistible. Puppies, kittens, bunnies, elklets – OK, I know they are not called “elklets”, but “elk calf” just doesn’t sound cute enough.

I made a trip over to the Boxley Valley this week. The Buffalo National River runs across the valley and its a wonderful place filled with bluffs and water and open meadows between the mountains. Last week I got a chance to see some adolescent elk play, this time I got a chance to see many young calves with their mothers.

The last half of the summer is the time when you can spot these spotted youngsters. Their coats make them almost invisible in the daylight in the woods, their spots mimicking the way that sunlight falls through the trees. The can lie down in the grass and nearly disappear until the movement of their huge bunny ears give them away. Their mothers stay close by, feeding in groups with other cows. Occasionally a calf pops up from the meadow and takes off on colt-like legs.

On this evening I spotted some brown in the grass – it began to move and I saw ears. Click though the gallery below to see the shots of the young calf in order as it looks for it’s mother.

Naked Ladies in the Rain

Don’t be silly, I’m not THAT kind of photographer.

Naked ladies are a much-loved variety of Amaryllis that bloom in the first week of August. They have no leaves to cover them – hence, they are naked. Some people call them surprise lilies. My neighbor Mary Jane introduced them to me several years ago when she called me to come over to her place and to bring my camera. The lovely pink and yellow flowers stood towering over the dead leaves in her woods. I go back every year and take photos of them. I prefer to shoot macro and explore the parts of the flower. The stamens are really stunning and the buds are such a great color too.

This year I lucked out. We have been getting an unusual amount of rain so it was the perfect opportunity to indulge in my love of raindrops. I took my new weather sealed macro lens out into the woods and braved the storm.

It’s that color so late in the summer, I think that intrigues me. Without leaves to hide them, the naked ladies are all about color. Those, the blackberry lilies,  and the crepe myrtles are the last blast of summer color. The ladies will be here for a week or two, and then anticipation for fall color takes root in me. For now, I’ll just enjoy them while they linger.

Shutter Speed – on the Road

I’ve written five posts about migrating to Shutter Mode – most of them featured shots taken right here at the Stone House. It’s one thing to put something into practice in a semi controlled environment – it’s quite another to risk the uncertainty of a new skill out on the road when you are shooting subjects that you rarely see.

Thursday a friend texted me at work asking me if I would be up to a drive over to the Boxley valley after work. These long summer days have afforded me more late day opportunities to shoot and I was totally excited about ending a very busy work day with a drive out to elk country. We left at 6 and had about 45 minutes of decent light once we arrived. We spotted an elk coming out of the woods into the meadow, it was followed by another, and another, and another until there were about a dozen young elk. This appeared to be a colony of teenagers – a mix of young bulls and cows. The meadow was their hangout and they were there to feed. I quickly snapped up several pastoral scenes.

So you may be asking what this series has to do with shutter speed – I had the shutter set at 1/640 second with the ISO at 2500. The meadow was in the shade of the mountains to the west – so although we were shooting before sunset, we were doing it in the shade – shooting with that higher ISO in low light can result in lots of grain, but if there was some action a reasonably fast speed would be required to capture it. I was just about to lower the speed and ISO when something happened.

A pair of young elk decided that a pastoral evening dining on grass what not what they were looking for. A young cow taunted a young bull with amazing results…

It was the equivalent of overturning all the tables at Denny’s – the other elk weren’t sure if they should react or finish their dinner. None of them decided to join our happy pranksters, but none of them reacted negatively either – what a great society!

I was losing light during this series and the shots are noticeably grainy as the scene comes to an end – but there’s the dilemma. Do you catch the action and live with the grain, or do you lower the ISO and shutter speeds and deal with blur and darkness? I chose to capture.

I’ve been shooting the elk for a couple of years now and have been admiring the work of other local photogs shooting in the valley for far longer and this is something I have never seen – so capturing it, even a bit grainy was a thrill. Who knew that a Thursday could end so perfectly!

Related Posts:

Shutter Speed Part 1

Shutter Speed Part 2

Shutter Speed Part 3

Shutter Speed Part 4

Shutter Speed Part 5